Blesok no. 46, January-February, 2006
Macedonia is a Goldmine for Talents
interview: Olivier Samouillan, musician and globetrotter
Olivier Samouillan is a young man. Frenchman. Following his path of love, he – slowly but certain – conquers Macedonia. In this last years he turned himself into a greater Skopje citizen than many borne in this city. He's a husband of our female film-director Teona Mitevska. Also, he's a father of the four-years old Kaeliok. He has a classical music education and he has an enormous wish for breaking the prejudices. In music and life both. He studied at the Barclay Jazz Academy and he has played at the pavements of Paris. He usually starts his day at the Macedonian Philharmonics. You can also notice his smile at some of the local matinees at the popular café-bars in the city. He's tireless at the rehearsals with the “Project Zhlust” and “D.N.O”. Some say that the studio in Kisela Voda is his second home. At the evenings he plays concerts, or, together with the local masters of the trade, he makes his musical vows again and again. He saves the nights for his dearest and to tame the beast within himself. To work on the notes that are just about to see the light of the day. He really, in an incredible short period of time he became a real local urban legend.
Toulouse – Boston – Skopje. France – Macedonia. Does Olivier Samouillan feels comfortable in this environment in which he's known and appreciated as the most precious and the most engaged foreign musician?
– Traveling with the music is the most wonderful thing. Every new day, every new destination is an adventure. Step by step, I create a net, a web linking the different places I work in. This aspect is of great importance for me. Before, I was connecting the American and the French artists and I was organizing the interlacing in this area of art. This net still functions between Paris and New York even without me. Now it's the same here, with the Macedonian musicians. This net functions now and it will function on further, although I can leave Macedonia anytime (it's quite possible to happen the next summer). But, the net will remain. But I will always come back, and the cooperation with the Macedonian musicians will go on. From recently, when I became a father, I've limited my travels, so I focus on my own music and composing it. One of the reasons I go back in France is the continuing of my music studies with Bernhardt Cavannah, who is, in my opinion, one of the greatest world's composers.
Classical music concerts, jazz, contemporary music, a part of the “Project Zhlust” and “D.N.O”, and also of man others local bands and projects and clubbing performances; a guest musician at the latest “Foltin” album, music guest and companion of Toni Kitanovski, film-music author (How I Killed a Saint, directed by Teona Mitevska), an executive producer (“The Corinne Letterier Quintet”), etc… How do you get the energy for all that? How many hours your days have?
– I'm very glad that I can work with all these bands and musicians that you mention and also, with many others that you didn't mention. Well, my day starts very early and ends very late, as you assume. I sleep very little, but I don't complain, the life of the musicians is very pleasant. Also, here is my family, which comes at the very first place in my priority lists.
As a musician temporary at the work in Macedonia, did you form your image about local artists and local conditions and potentials?
– There are many differences, of course. As first, there is no music industry in Macedonia. One can be a part of the most famous and popular band, to make a video-clips that would often appear on TV, but at the end of the year to sell less than 250 copies of his album (and some more at the auto-market, in pirate copies), then to perform for less than 50 Euros, if he's persistent one. And in spite of all this, Macedonia is a goldmine for talents, and the country is in a great creative period. There are many theater plays going, there are great painters, writers, the film industry is improving, there are many successful classical musicians… Probably soon, one day that will come to surface and to its yield…
With what kind of music you grew up, and what kind of music would you like to play in future? Of how great significance you rate your engagement in “Project Zhlust” and “D.N.O”? And, will you with your viola sign your own music project – an album in which many materials from your various projects will find a place, like the performances of Vuk Mitevski…?
– I grew up with a lot different kinds of music. My father knew to play Bob Dylan on his guitar, and then to listen to Wagner. My mother preferred Bob Marley, and Fela Kuti for her roots – the flamenco. I grew up studying the classical music, at the same time playing with the French gypsies the legendary guitarist Jango Reinhardt, my greatest inspiration. In future, I would like more to compose music for great ensembles with many instruments. I have “an illusion of greatness”, “la folie des grandeurs”. I just couldn't put all my work on one album, because it would be an album without concept. Every project that I've worked on, has its own distinctions and all are different from each other, even in those where I was only producing the music.
Recently, you took a pioneer step – from Marseille, France, you brought “The Corinne Letterier Quintet” in Skopje, to record an album in the Zhlust studio, making it the first foreign band to do that in Macedonia. So in that way you initiated your idea that this city can offer great conditions for the foreign musicians for realization of their projects. How this matter goes on?
– I'm doing my best to develop this idea. It can mean a good business. In reality, many world musicians from the rich countries can relax their budgets and to record their albums significantly chipper here. At the same time, it would help the Macedonian musicians who are – with no doubt – with very quality skills, to offer their services to those foreigners, and to triple their incomes. At the moment, I'm negotiating with a certain theater company that would like to record in our studio here. If we're smart enough to organize ourselves, we could be looking at one permanent business here. Actually, here in Macedonia, the organization, the discipline and the transparency are the greatest problems of all. Without those problems solved, no serious company wouldn't come to make business here.
There is a word that you with your music companions are finalizing the latest work of the “Project Zhlust”. When do you intend to present that material to the music audience, and what would be its destiny?
– The “Project Zhlust” is a complex band, that plays complex music with complex men, and that's why it is my favorite band. But with them we produce very little music, because every note is a matter of polemics, as every one in the band has its own personality, and every one of us is the producer at he same time. But, I can also say that I have rarely occasion to experiment with this kind of strong emotional performances as I do with them. Until now, we have recorded some materials in our studio with Bojan Ugrinovski, but the major material will be additionally recorded live. We plan to record on 2nd of April, on the Macedonian Music Day. With a few guests. I can say that we're going to be more than 20 of us at the stage. What concerns the distribution, we'll do the same as with our previous two albums, with the American-Israeli company, which distributes our music through every larger on-line companies in the world.
Teona Mitevska, your wife, is finishing the pre-production of her new film. Will you sign the music for this film? Do you easily “combine and synch” in relations of this kind?
– We always had an enormous mutual understanding with Teona. She is my “No. 1 consultant” in my work. We work together, she writes the lyrics, and I make the music. We talk of a decadent love here, a love that sounds great.
You live on the relation Skopje – Paris – New York. As an artist and musician, would you choose Macedonia as your Final Destination? As an inspiring place for your creativity and success? And anyway, what's your definition of career success?
– Well, to drink a cocktail at the peak of one of the hills above Ohrid Lake, where I could breathe the fresh antique air and create wonderful music… I'm kidding, I'm a globetrotter, I have no Final Destination. I hope that I will travel the world many times. When I play, I feel something very extreme inside. It happens some people around me can actually feel that same energy. Well, that's success. It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does, it's the greatest from within – turned into music. And only The Music can give you that.
Translated by: Petar Volnarovski